Motorcycle Patrolman Howard E. Beitman | Cincinnati Police Division

Motorcycle Patrolman Howard E. Beitman
Motorcycle Patrolman Howard E. Beitman

Age: 41
Served 10 years
August 5, 1925 to October 1, 1935

 

By 11:15 p.m. on Tuesday, September 24, 1935, Patrolman Beitman, 565 Dixmyth Avenue, and his partner Motorcycle Patrolman Clifford Rhein had finished their shift and were on their way home when Patrolman Beitman was thrown from his Harley-Davidson as a car hit the left rear wheel of his cycle at Schiller and Hughes Streets. Patrolman Beitman, who was described by Major Charles S. Wolsefer, head of the Traffic Bureau, as “one of the best officers in the safety patrol,” landed on his head and suffered a skull fracture.

Patrolman Rhein, who had been riding a short distance ahead of Patrolman Beitman, reported that when he heard the crash, he noted that the striking vehicle was on the wrong side of the street.

Patrolman Beitman was taken to General Hospital where he remained unconscious until he died on October 1, 1935. He left a wife, Henrietta Beitman. He was buried in Spring Grove Cemetery, on October 4, 1935 at 3 p.m. Henrietta died 43 years later on January 6, 1978.

The driver of the other vehicle, a Nash sedan, Rudolph Gross of 210 East Liberty Street, was initially arrested for reckless driving and arraigned in Police Court the following day. At this proceeding he was held under $1000 bond and scheduled for a hearing October 1.

Once the accident was classified as a fatality, Detective Sergeant George Ebbers and Detectives Andrew Beard and Fred Seebohm arrested Gross again on the more serious manslaughter charge according to a Cincinnati Enquirer accounting the following morning. Patrolman Clifford Rhein signed the warrant.

On the day Patrolman Beitman died, Municipal Judge Otis R. Hess continued Gross’ trial until October 8 and allowed him to go free on bond. When the case came to trial on the appointed day, Hess referred it to the Grand Jury. Nearly four months later, on February 14, 1936, the Grand Jury ignored the manslaughter charge, according to Hamilton County Common Pleas records.

 

MOTORCYCLE ACCIDENTS

Patrolman Howard E. Beitman had been the second Station X Motorcycle Squad member to be killed in the line of duty during 1935. Just seven months earlier, Patrolman Jessie Roy Hicks had been killed while pursuing a speeding auto out West Eighth Street during the early morning hours of February 25.

Motorcycles had been in use by the Cincinnati Police Department for almost a quarter century the year that Patrolmen Hicks and Beitman lost their lives.

In 1910, Chief William H. Jackson asked the City for funding for both “auto-patrols and motorcycles” so that these might be placed in police districts 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10. A year later two motorcycles were purchased and placed in commission. These were used to regulate traffic in districts 7 and 8.

In the 1913, Annual Report of City Departments (dated December 20, 1913) we read from the Office of the Director of Public Safety, “Twelve motorcycles were added to take care of the outskirts and to answer emergency calls from substations.” The sub-stations scheduled to get them were Saylor Park, College Hill, Carthage, Oakley, Pleasant Ridge, Madisonville, California, Mt. Washington and Hyde Park.

Further, “These motorcycles are used by patrolmen in responding to calls for assistance from citizens. At each station a patrolman is always on duty, and when a call for police comes it is his duty to mount the motorcycle and respond at once. After attending the business necessitated by the call, the patrolman immediately returns to his station.”

Through the 1930s, motorcycles continued to be an important part of the Safety Patrol of the Police Division. We read in The Cincinnati Enquirer March 24, 1932 that bids had just been opened for 20 police motorcycles. Further, each was to be equipped with a radio receiver and a sidecar. Estimated cost of these completely equipped motorcycles: $9,315.

Back then, the Police Department stressed safety to all of its members just as it continues to do today. Because of the special hazards that the Motorcycle Squad faced, the Department constantly endeavored to educate those men.

We read in The Cincinnati Enquirer on April 15, 1932 that, “all motorcycle policemen will go to school.” During these weekly sessions the officers studied safety education, accident prevention and investigation. They were instructed in criminal investigations pertaining to auto crimes and also taught proper court procedures, including giving good testimony. The school in 1932 was headed by Major Gustav Lorenz, who headed the Department’s Bureau of Personnel.

Tragically however, motorcycle patrolmen continued to die in the line of duty. Since Greater Cincinnati area law enforcement had begun using motorcycles in the 1920s, eleven officers died on the job.

These victims are: Emery Farmer, Fairfield Township, 1922; David Rogers, Covington, 1923; Arthur Seaman, North College Hill, 1923; J. Roy Hicks, Cincinnati, 1935; Howard Beitman, Cincinnati, 1935; Harry Rose, Covington, 1938; Robert Leigh, Cincinnati, 1940; John Neal, Cincinnati, 1944; Willard Santel, Reading, 1945; John Hughes, Cincinnati; 1948; and Lewis Hall, Cincinnati, 1948.

Eventually, according to an accounting in the Cincinnati Post on August 16, 1944, the Cincinnati Police Department decided to abandon the use of two-wheel motorcycles and replace them with these Scout Cars. The line-of-duty death of yet another motorcycle patrolman that year, John W. Neal, influenced Weatherly to make this recommendation to then Safety Director Gordon Scherer, who immediately gave his approval.

If you have information, artifacts, archives, or images regarding this officer or incident, please contact the Greater Cincinnati Police Musem at Director@police-museum.org.

 

This narrative was revised July 14, 2012 by Cincinnati Police Dispatcher Karen R. Arbogast (Retired), Greater Cincinnati Police Museum Researcher, with research assistance from Cincinnati Police Lieutenant Stephen R. Kramer (Retired), Greater Cincinnati Police Historical Society President. All rights are reserved to them and the Greater Cincinnati Police Historical Society.